Giraffe, celebrity chef Simon Gault’s latest venture in the corner of the Viaduct Harbour, wasn’t always going to be called Giraffe. “I had my own name but a few people didn’t like it,” he told Restaurant & Café. So he turned to his then three-year-old daughter and asked her what she would call it. She chose Giraffe, and Gault never looked back.
Gault was heavily involved in getting Giraffe off the ground when it opened in June. He had earlier travelled to the US with an interior designer, gleaning inspiration from overseas venues. “It wanted it to feel homely and warm,” explained Gault, although he still has further plans. “We’ll be putting in some new lights and new curtains – try warm the place up even more.”Complementing the interior design are two striking artworks of which Gault has particular reason to be proud – the two wall-mounted no. 8 wire giraffe creations were made by a staff member.
Like most restaurants, Gault initially struggled to get good staff, but has put a team together that now feels like family – Gault himself can often be seen in the kitchen. “We’ve decided to go top heavy with the staff to make sure the customers get the best experience. On the first night I was calling the pass and noticed someone else was struggling in their section, so I went and helped there for a while.” Working in the kitchen also means that Gault can keep a close eye on what’s being sent out. “Taste, taste, taste, taste, taste. Once it’s on the table, it’s too late.”
When creating the menu for Giraffe, Gault shied away from the traditional Entree/Main/Dessert format, instead opting for a range of different sized dishes and also a limited menu, of which they’ll only make so much per night. Also included on the menu is a ‘Kids TV Dinner,’ furthering the homely feel. “I want this to be like you’re coming over to my place,” he said. “If you want to bring the kids you bring the kids, and there should be suitable options for them too.”
Gault has also made the choice to largely bypass conventional foodservice providers and source products directly from the producers. “It’s a nightmare from an accounts point of view, but I want to have real partnership with the suppliers and understand their story.” It’s all about the product for Gault – and not messing with it too much.”
So far the best-selling item on the Giraffe menu has been the suckling pig, which feeds about six people, and has proven so popular that the restaurant has struggled to keep up with demand. Also popular is the prawn and pork wellington – pork cured for five hours then cooked in duck fat for eight, topped with a prawn mousse and wrapped in pastry.
These elaborate dishes are a far cry from the ice cream cake that an eight-year-old Gault made for his sister’s first birthday – his earliest memory of making food. It was the start of a journey that took him through some of Europe’s top restaurants, working alongside iconic restaurateurs such as Prue Leith and Kenneth Bell, the first recipient of a Michelin star in England. “I actually ended up catering for his wedding,” said Gault. “It was great but so stressful, making my food for all these accomplished chefs.”
No stranger in front of the cameras thanks to his stint on Masterchef, Gault has returned to screens with his new series ‘What Do We Eat?’ For Gault, who for a long time kept his type 2 diabetes diagnosis under wraps, the topic was a personal one. He has recently launched a line of sauces, all naturally sweetened with vegetables. The Tomato Ketchup is available now, with a BBQ and Chipotle on the way. “They have potential to be a game changer,” said Gault. “It’s a real point of difference. There’s nothing else like it in the world.”